Be on the lookout for Sony
The electronics powerhouse plans to expand its limited foray into specialized retail stores by adding 50 to 60 new locations in the U.S. over the next two or three years. The goal is to obtain customer feedback for product development and increase per-customer sales, according to company leadership.
The strategy follows a path forged by Apple Computer
One area in which retail sites appear to be effective is in grabbing consumers' attention. I know I have trouble not taking a quick look inside Apple stores whenever I happen to walk past one. Nevertheless, opening expensive stores in upscale markets seems like an awfully costly way to market products.
However surprising Sony's retail plan is, it is hard to question the firm's marketing prowess. The company has been especially aggressive (though some of its more ambitious plans fell through) in promoting Spider-Man 2. The fruits of this effort are already evident, even before the film's first weekend in theaters. (It helps that the movie is actually supposed to be very good).
All the same, the idea of investing significant amounts of cash to have a bigger and most likely money-losing retail presence seems strange. After all, this is the same company that announced it is pulling out of the PDA segment, where it controls 13% of the market, presumably because heavy competition keeps profit margins low.
Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Ill. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned here.